As society has progressed over the course of the last 2,500 years so have our methods of recording history, or historiography. We have grown to no just exclusively document history one way, but include several different styles. At almost the same time the Greeks were orally passing on stories and myths the Romans were writing Annals. Annals are a form of historiography which is recorded chronologically with indifference to where the event took place. Fast forward two and a half millennium and historians haven’t changed much in their methods of documentation which are very similar to the philosophers such as Herodotus and Tacitus. Herodotus also knows as the ‘Father of History’ in western civilizations was the first major philosopher to try and accurately recount history in his masterpiece The Histories.
Herodotus was very controversial in ancient times; in fact Cicero wrote “No other writer was so severely criticized as Herodotus.”! Herodotus wrote history very differently from the Romans and even the Greeks in his time, he wrote history by region instead of chronologically and one of the first to get away from the oral storytelling tradition. Furthermore he believed that myths and falsehoods were as worth putting as palpable truths. Today’s methods of historiography are very similar to that. We have to document history by region because now that we have joined together history from not just one city or town but the entire world there is too much information from too many places for anyone to understand it chronologically.
Also there are hundreds if not thousands of books devoted completely to mythology, so we share that desire to include them as well. This contrasts greatly with another Greek philosopher Thucydides. Thucydides begins his work History of the Peloponnesian War by specifically saying in the introduction that he will not include any falsehoods in his recounting. This is part of the reason Thucydides has been dubbed “The Father of Scientific History’ due to his reliance on scientific testing and lack of reference to divine interference. This is also similar to us nowadays, in textbooks and scholarly articles everything must be proven by providing references and explaining the thought process required to get to that conclusion.
This is slightly different from the method created by the Romans, which is to write Annals. Annals are a chronological form of record-keeping, the most famous of which is Annals written by Roman Senator Tacitus. Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest historians from Rome primarily because of that work. The Annals consist of fourteen books and about half of which completely survived. Part of four of the books are missing and unfortunately there is a lacuna of books seven through ten. Tacitus had a very strong writing style and influenced several Renaissance writers and even Thomas Jefferson who wrote “Tacitus I consider the first writer in the world without a single exception. His book is a compound of history and morality of which we have no other example.” His work was very similar to the way in which we document history because similar to Thucydides he also drew conclusions based on strict facts. He had a strong base of information to draw upon since he was a Roman Senator and therefore had access to all of the Roman records.
We as a culture, and historians especially, tend to be strictly factual as well. In the case of Martha Ballard who was a very emphatic nurse. She wrote a diary which expressed her difficulties and tragedies being a midwife in Maine and traveling the dangerous frontier. The way she wrote that diary though evoked emotion from the reader while also writing from a strictly factual and unemotional standpoint.” That is similar to how Tacitus and Thucydides wrote.
The way that history is recorded is distinctly similar to all of the cultures before us. Roman, Greek, and other western philosophers have influenced significant periods in our history such as the Renaissance, the writing of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and even how we document history today. This is due primarily to the famous philosophers such as Tacitus, Herodotus, and Thucydides.
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